If you are looking for the best thing since sliced bread, try making yourself a grilled cheese sandwich. Or if you don’t do dairy, perhaps a hummus pita bread hybrid. But, you know, don’t count on Delirium. That’s not to say it’s drivel or that it won’t be passionately loved by someone out there. It will. Probably several someones, actually. But it’s just not, you know, whipped cream in a can. Which is pretty much one of the best inventions ever, for obvious reasons.

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that one love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

To succeed with me, a dystopian (or any genre, really) novel must have a couple of key elements: a character or two that I absolutely fall in love with, a certain level of trust in/for the world they live in, and a tense or mysterious unveiling of events. I can give or take one element if you hand me beautiful writing on a platter. But you must want an example! Here, I have one all ready: The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Todd (main character in aforementioned novel) is young, but he’s already been through a lot. For most of the book he is confused, but he’s 100% about doing the right thing. Or what he thinks is the right thing. And when he gets it wrong, his guilt is palpable. You literally HAVE to feel for him. I didn’t understand his whole society/world at first, but the gradual reveal was both sinister and awesome. I never once ‘popped out’ of the story and told myself it was unrealistic. And as for the plot: nonstop action, danger, tension. No space for doubt or disbelief. Now, go read that book!

Delirium disappointed me on all three counts. 1) I never invested in any one character. Although all of them have some redeeming qualities, I didn’t see enough change, growth, or any really deep human emotions to cause me to root for someone. I saw some ugliness, I saw awful memories, and I saw bad friendship. I did not find a connection with anyone because of those. The most interesting characters (to me) were the ones not present: Lena’s mother and sister. The ones with the most face time didn’t exactly change my world.

2) This dystopian-thing. I may just be a born skeptic, but I didn’t buy it. There were a couple of creepy people dedicated to the cause and keeping order. Not so much actual violence. But the main problem: even though love is a powerful emotion, it is not the ONLY emotion. And the world that Oliver painted was definitely grayscale without love. I am not convinced that society would have worked the way it was described given the parameters the author laid out. I found myself putting the book down to ponder what would have made it more believable, and to analyze which elements rang false.

And finally, 3) the plot. It’s a slow starter, but that in and of itself isn’t always a bad thing. I will admit to reading Delirium compulsively up until page 120, about which time I realized that nothing spectacular was going to jump out and grab me. It’s not that nothing happens. It’s just that I knew what was going to happen. I felt let down.

Now, lest you get all up in my face and say that this is/was/will be your favorite book ever, and I’m a horrible person for hating it, let’s review. I may be a horrible person. But I did not say that I hated the book. Just that it disappointed me. And every reason I used to substantiate that claim was an opinion and personal experience thing. This book can work for you, you can love it, and we can still be friends. I’m just not joining the fan club.

My question coming out of this: can you be spoiled for dystopian novels? Because this one read like Uglies to me. Uglies for girls who wouldn’t usually touch dystopian lit. I begin to wonder if I’ve read so much end-of-the-world goodness that I won’t find anything new under the sun. If that’s the case, I’m very sad.

Also sad? This snippet of text:

“He left me a note. He left me a note. For me. The idea – the fact of it, the fact that he even noticed and thought about me for more than one second – is huge and overwhelming, makes my legs go tingly and my hands feel numb.” -page 142 (ARC, subject to change)

Let’s hope it gets cut from the final version. That’s all. Really.

Are you still looking forward to Delirium?

Delirium releases February 1, 2011 from HarperTeen. I received a review copy through Traveling ARC Tours. Delirium also counts for the 2010 Dystopia Reading Challenge.


Ginny Larsen said...

i agree with you on the dialogue cutting part. and yes, i think it's possible to be 'ruined' for a while with books... i think there'll be better ones to be discovered, maybe not soon, but eventually :D

Tales of Whimsy said...

Oooo that quote wasn't good.

Thanks for your honest review.

It was a delight to read.

You had me smiling with that sliced bread analogy :)

Andrea said...

I'm in the middle of reading this and I like it. I am getting an Uglies vibe from it too.

I think it's hard to relate to most of the characters because the concept is so far removed from real life.

Scoot said...

Great review! I did enjoy Delirium, but I agree you can get ruined for a while on a certain genre. It is hard waiting around for that next amazing book to re-invigorate you on your genre of choice! I am going to try to find The Knife of Never Letting Go now. Sounds perfect!

Robby said...

I haven't read much of any dystopian, so I think this book would do at least a little something for me. Lauren Oliver is a pretty fantastic writer. Uglies rocked my world in middle school. Thank you for your honesty.

Steph Su said...

I'm glad I read your review. I've read so many rave ones for this book, but I'm doing my best to tamper down my expectations. I read the first 20 or so pages and wasn't impressed yet, which was why I haven't read more since then! It's good to know that this is a possibility.

Alyce said...

I'll be really curious to see what I think about this one because I do have a soft spot for dystopian and loved Uglies.

Cecelia said...

I definitely didn't mean to infer that I didn't like Uglies. I did! I found it addictive. But this one just felt derivative rather than fresh, you know? To each their own, obviously. This title has TONS of fans. *grin*

Unknown said...

Huh. It's nice to see a negative review of this book (and it's very well done, by the way. I struggle with writing negative reviews!). Everyone's been raving about it, and I wondered if anyone would step out with their opinion.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Though I've heard a lot of hype, I don't really care to read this one. I enjoyed the Uglies series but I read them so long ago before a lot of the other similar books came out. i appreciate your honesty. You get your point across without trashing it.

Jenny Girl said...

It's perfectly fine to not like a book that everyone may love Your review was honest, you laid out your points, and I would say the quote you included was the final nail in the coffin. THanks for the honesty.

Kenna said...

I have to disagree! I thought that Delirium was beautifully written and incredibly captivating, but then again, I do tend to suspend disbelief when reading dystopian novels, just for the sake of my sanity. Appreciate the honesty, though!

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